"The issue of human life and its preservation and development is one that begins with conception and ends only when God calls a person back to himself in death. If we are consistent, then, we must be concerned about life from beginning to end. It is like a seamless garment; either it all holds together or eventually it all falls apart." Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 1975

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Choosing Death, Choosing Life: did being distinctly 'normal' make a difference?- - part 2

CNN) -- A brain-dead pregnant woman lies on a hospital bed. Doctors want to keep her on life support until they can deliver her baby. An anguished husband waits.
At first glance, the case of Robyn Benson of Victoria, British Columbia, appears to bear similarities to that of Marlise Munoz in Texas -- except for two key differences.
In Munoz's case, her husband wanted her taken off a ventilator and the hospital acknowledged the fetus she carried was not viable.
But Benson's situation is different.
Here, both her husband, Dylan, and the doctors are trying to keep her on a ventilator until they can deliver the baby via a C-section. And the life inside her is growing normally.
"We go see her every day and she is doing so much to grow our son," Dylan Benson told CTV. "Her brain is not alive, but she still is."
The Benson family ordeal began shortly after Christmas.
Robyn Benson complained of a "terrible, terrible headache" and sent her husband out to get some Tylenol. When he returned, she was unresponsive, but still breathing.
At the hospital, doctors discovered she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was later declared brain dead.
Now, Dylan Benson is in an unimaginable position.
He's counting down the days to the birth of his son -- and the death of his wife.
A much different case
The Munoz family, on the other hand, had nothing to look forward to.
Their case, which played out internationally, sparked a wrenching two-month legal debate about who is alive, who is dead and how the presence of a fetus changes the equation.
Erick Munoz found his wife unconscious at their home on November 26. A blood clot in her lungs had killed her. She hadn't been breathing for about an hour. At the time, she was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child.
But, unlike the Bensons, the fetus Marlise Munoz was carrying was described by family attorneys as "distinctly abnormal," with multiple deformities including a possible heart problem.
Munoz fought a Texas law that says "you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient," eventually winning a lawsuit and the right to remove Marlise from life support in late January.
He said he knew his wife wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially.
A community rallies
Five weeks have passed since Dylan Benson found his wife unconscious. The odds are getting better for the boy he's named Iver.
"The doctors have said that he now has higher than an 80% of survival and that increases with every day that passes," Benson said.
Doctors hope Robyn Benson can carry the boy seven more weeks when she will be about 34 weeks pregnant. The baby will then be healthy enough to be delivered.
The community has rallied to support the Bensons in a online fundraising campaign that began over the weekend.
The Baby Iver Fund began with a goal of $36,000. By early Tuesday, it had already doubled that with 88 days left in the campaign.
And the number keeps climbing: It exceeded $92,000 as of noon (3 p.m. ET), about $17,000 above what it was earlier in the day.
"Please help to raise funds for my unborn son, Iver, and I," reads the front page of the online effort. "He has already lost his mother, but I want to provide the best life I possibly can for him."
The money will be used to pay for bills, baby supplies, daycare, housing, food, transportation and an education fund for Iver. Dylan also noted that he hasn't worked during this ordeal, and that compensation during his leave after Iver is born will cover just more than half his normal salary.
People shared the link to the fundraising page around social media, from former co-workers to the local Anglican diocese to strangers in Canada and beyond.
"Humanity fills me with such hope when it comes together like this," tweeted one woman. "Support Dylan and #BabyIver."
Among those chiming in on Twitter was Dylan Benson, who thanked several people -- including one who pointed to a news story from France -- who'd brought attention to his campaign.
He spoke more extensively in a blog post about his unborn baby and wife.
"She was my rock," Dylan wrote of Robyn.
"It is very difficult to know that our son will grow up never meeting his wonderful mother, and that we will have to say our goodbyes to Robyn within hours of seeing Iver for the first time."

Brain-dead Canadian woman dies after son's birth


From Paula Newton, CNN
updated 7:32 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
(CNN) -- A ventilator kept Robyn Benson breathing for weeks so the baby growing inside her could survive.
Doctors delivered the brain-dead Canadian woman's son on Saturday. She died the next day.
"On Sunday, we had to unfortunately say goodbye to the strongest and most wonderful woman I have ever met," her husband, Dylan Benson, wrote on his website.

Pregnant woman kept on life support
Their newborn son, Iver, is in a neonatal intensive care unit in Victoria, British Columbia, a hospital spokeswoman said. He could be hospitalized for eight more weeks, Dylan Benson told CNN on Tuesday.
"He's doing well, still learning to breathe and all those things. ... But he's the cutest little man," he said.
The Benson family's ordeal began shortly after Christmas.
Robyn Benson complained of a "terrible, terrible headache" and sent her husband out to get some Tylenol. When he returned, she was unresponsive, but still breathing.
At the hospital, doctors discovered she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was later declared brain-dead.
The situation left Dylan Benson in an unimaginable position, counting down the days until the birth of his son -- and the death of his wife.
The case drew some comparisons to the case of Marlise Muñoz in Texas, another pregnant woman who was declared brain-dead and hooked up to machines that kept her heart and lungs working. But there were two key differences.
In Muñoz's case, her husband wanted her taken off a ventilator, and the hospital acknowledged the fetus she carried was not viable. A court ultimately ordered the hospital to disconnect the ventilator.
In Benson's situation, family members and doctors agreed to keep her on a ventilator until they could deliver the baby via a cesarean section. And the life inside her was growing normally.
On Tuesday, Dylan Benson told CNN he was grateful for the support he'd received as word spread about his family's story.
"I feel very, very, incredibly thankful. The message of positivity has been incredible, and it's made it easier to get through these past few weeks," he said.
An online fund-raising campaign to support the Bensons began this month.
The Baby Iver Fund started with a goal of $36,000. By Tuesday afternoon, it had already raised more than $150,000.
The money is slated to be used to pay for bills, baby supplies, day care, housing, food, transportation and an education fund for Iver.
"I hope that it makes it so he can have the life he deserves," Dylan Benson said. "I want to thank everyone around the world."
If Robyn Benson were still alive, he said, there's no doubt about what she'd think.
"She would be very proud of our son," he said. "I think she would be happy that there were so many people all over the world that want to see him healthy and happy. "

CNN's Ed Payne, Stephanie Gallman and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Choosing Death, Choosing Life: did being distinctly abnormal make a difference?- part 1

Husband of pregnant woman wants her off life support

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
updated 4:11 PM EST, Tue December 24, 2013

(CNN) -- Erick Munoz wants to see his wife's wish fulfilled this holiday season, but it's one that carries ethical and legal challenges: To be taken off of life support.
Marlise Munoz, 33, is in serious condition in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, hospital officials said. She is unconscious and on a ventilator, her husband told CNN affiliate WFAA, but she wouldn't have wanted her life sustained by a machine.
"We talked about it. We're both paramedics," he told WFAA. "We've seen things out in the field. We both knew that we both didn't want to be on life support."
Complicating an already difficult situation is that Munoz is also pregnant, about 18 weeks along, WFAA reported. Texas state law prohibits withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient, regardless of her wishes.

Man wants pregnant wife off life support

Patients can indicate their future wishes about medical treatment, in the event that they are unable to communicate them, through forms called advance directives. But in Texas, under the Health and Safety Code, such a form includes the provision "I understand that under Texas law this Directive has no effect if I have been diagnosed as pregnant."
Erick Munoz told WFAA doctors said his wife may have suffered a pulmonary embolism, which happens when blood clots travel to the lungs from elsewhere in the body. They do not know how long the baby went without nutrients and oxygen.
The hospital would not release specific details about Marlise Munoz's condition, but officials said the hospital would follow Texas law regarding care during pregnancy.
"We have a responsibility as a good corporate citizen here in Tarrant County to also provide the highest quality care we can for all of our patients," said J.R. Labbe, vice president of communications and community affairs for JPS Health Network, in a statement.
"But at all times, we will follow the law as it is applicable to health care in the state of Texas. And state law here says you cannot withhold or withdraw life sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient. It's that clear."
The husband and wife, both paramedics in the Tarrant County area, have a 14-month-old son named Mateo.
Erick Munoz and Marlise Munoz's mother did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNN.
Erick Munoz found his wife unconscious on November 26, around 2 a.m. He performed CPR on her and then called 911, WFAA reported.
Since that day, the pregnant woman has been on life support, her husband said. Tests have shown that the fetus has a normal heart beat, he said. At 24 weeks, doctors may know more about when the fetus can be taken out, Munoz's family told WFAA. Doctors have also discussed the possibility of taking the fetus to full term.
He told WFAA that his wife had said she would not want to be kept alive by machine, and said he has reached "the point where you wish that your wife's body would stop."
Munoz wears his wife's pink and blue bracelets on his wrist, WFAA reported. Her wedding ring is on his pinkie.
When Munoz walks in the door, he said his son Mateo is waiting for his mother to show up.
"You can see it in his eyes," Munoz said.
Brain-dead Texas woman taken off ventilator
From Caleb Hellerman. Jason Morris and Matt Smith, CNN
updated 7:26 AM EST, Mon January 27, 2014
Fort Worth, Texas (CNN) -- A wrenching court fight -- about who is alive, who is dead and how the presence of a fetus changes the equation -- came to an end Sunday when a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman was taken off a ventilator.
The devices that had kept Marlise Munoz's heart and lungs working for two months were switched off about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, her family's attorneys announced.
"May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey," the lawyers, Heather King and Jessica Janicek, said in a written statement.
Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child when her husband found her unconscious on their kitchen floor November 26. Though doctors had pronounced her brain dead and her family had said she did not want to have machines keep her body alive, officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth had said state law required them to maintain life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient.
Sunday's announcement came two days after a judge in Fort Worth ordered the hospital to remove any artificial means of life support from Munoz by 5 p.m. Monday. Earlier Sunday, the hospital said it intended to comply with that order.
"The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation," a hospital statement said. "JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute."
The hospital acknowledged Friday that Munoz, 33, had been brain dead since November 28 and that the fetus she carried was not viable. Her husband, Erick Munoz, had argued that sustaining her body artificially amounted to "the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body" against her wishes and those of her family.
Marlise Munoz didn't leave any written directives regarding end-of-life care, but her husband and other family members said she had told them she didn't want machines to keep her blood pumping.
In an affidavit filed Thursday in court, Erick Munoz said little to him was recognizable about his wife. Her bones crack when her stiff limbs move. Her usual scent has been replaced by the "smell of death." And her once lively eyes have become "soulless."
The hospital's position drew support from demonstrators outside the hospital, some of whom held signs last week that read "God stands for life" and "Praying for Baby Munoz and family." But others countered with placards bearing messages like "Let Marlise rest in peace" and "Respect Marlise's wishes."